TAMESIDE Council chiefs insist there is no other option than to raise council tax by the maximum available 4.99 per cent – or by just over £50 per year for a band A property.
And leader Cllr Brenda Warrington admitted they were ‘panicking’ at one stage and ‘difficult decisions’ may need to be taken.
The authority’s budget gap has grown by almost £3.5 million over the past 12 months, while the amount collected may have dropped by just over £5.5m.
That has brought the executive cabinet to approve the proposal to up the rate people will have to pay for the next financial year.
And member for finance, Cllr Oliver Ryan pointed the finger of blame firmly towards the Government.
Tameside Council’s director of finance Kathy Roe revealed the funding gap had grown from £19.6 to £23 million, with a report admitting £6.4 million of income from the Manchester Airport Dividend will now not be paid until at least 2025.
It also stated: “This savings programme is ambitious and will require relentless focus on planning, project management and delivery.
“The council faces a significant budget gap beyond 2021-22 and this budget gap will increase if planned reductions in spending are not delivered in 2021-22.
“A failure to turn around these budget areas will in turn result in an inability to set a balanced budget in future years and raise questions about the Council’s ability to deliver value for money services for its residents.
“The scale of the budget gap in future years requires immediate action to ensure transformational changes can be achieved, and ensure the council is well placed to respond to changing demands.”
Ms Rose added to the cabinet: “There has to be a key focus on delivery.
“We need a relentless focus on delivering the £9m savings that have been identified, along with the early assessment and delivery of the £13.8m savings proposed for the following financial year, with a drive to keep identifying even more savings opportunities to address our ongoing financial challenge.
“We’re assuming our council tax and business rates collection rates are reduced by about £5.6 million that is due to the effects of Covid also and the ongoing increase of people in need of payment support.
“We’ll need to utilise 2021-22 as a transition year which will have to go further on the propositions we’re going to need to implement to ensure we have a sustainable future.
“When we sat here last year, we always knew this was going to be a tough budget round to close but now we’ve experienced one of, if not the most difficult year in our lifetime it’s not surprising our challenge has increased even further.”
The executive cabinet agreed to recommend the increase, which equates to £50.83 a year for a band A property, or 98p a week.
It will be made up of a three per cent increase for the adult social care precept and a 1.99 per cent general increase and will be further debated at a meeting of the full council on February 23.
Cllr Warrington, however, spelled out just how vital this budget is, admitting: “We were panicking at one time.”
She said: “It’s subject to a lot of assumptions, one of the main ones being that we will deliver this.
“We know that in that delivery there may well be some difficult decisions that will have to be carried through.
“It’s not going to be easy, we don’t pretend that.
“We have to make sure we show determination and it’s in the best interests going forward of everyone in Tameside that we continue to deal with our finances in the most appropriate way.”
Cllr Ryan described the raise as a ‘small ask’ but said it was only being put forward because of a lack of Government support.
He said: “Raising council tax and cutting services is not something people come into politics for but unfortunately because of the way we’ve been left by the Government to deal with our own demand and services without the support we need, we’re having to face that prospect.
“Without this rise we wouldn’t be able to sustain services in the way we currently do. It’s not something we want to do and if Government had given us an alternative, we would’ve taken it.”